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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Opponents of Nationalist March Also Plan a Rally

Opponents of an ultranationalist march planned in Moscow for next week said Thursday that they would stage a counter-rally and urged Mayor Yury Luzhkov and other senior politicians to attend.

Federal human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and activists have expressed alarm about plans to repeat last year's ultranationalist march, in which thousands of extremists shouting Nazi and nationalist slogans paraded in the center of Moscow.

Nikita Belykh, leader of the liberal Union of Right Forces, said authorities had no legal grounds to ban the march but should signal their disapproval by showing up at the counter-rally.

"We are not calling for this march to be banned," Belykh said. "We have to fight through other means, through persuasion, that's why we are calling on people of importance, including in the government, to attend our event to show that the authorities are not looking from afar and taking a neutral stance, but are clearly stating their political stance toward such events."

On Nov. 4, 2005, right-wing political groups used a new national holiday celebrating Russian unity to stage a rally protesting illegal immigration. Several thousand people marched under extremist banners and some gave the Nazi salute and shouted "Heil Hitler." The police did not intervene.

Human rights groups say that the authorities are turning a blind eye to the growing wave of xenophobia and racially motivated attacks that target dark-skinned foreigners and immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus.

This year, 39 people have been killed in apparent hate crimes and a further 308 have been attacked, according to the Sova rights center, which monitors xenophobia.

Belykh, who announced the counter-rally together with human rights campaigners, said he had sent letters appealing for attendance at the anti-ultranationalist event to the leaders of various political parties, including Boris Gryzlov, leader of the so-called party of power, United Russia. He said that Luzhkov had also been invited.